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PTC Acquires Internet of Things Platform Provider ThingWorx

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Prediction Nine of our Supply Chain Matters 2014 Predictions for Global Supply Chains declared that the Internet of Things would gain considerably more momentum in 2014 and beyond. We based that prediction on new investment initiatives from industrial giants such as General Electric to build-out the technology and service technologies to make more machines interact with one another.

Yet another reinforcement of this increased momentum was yesterday’s announcement from product and service lifecycle management software provider PTC indicating that it had acquired ThingWorx, a provider of platform that allows firms to build and run applications that leverage machine to machine information exchange.  The acquisition included a sum of $112 million in up-front cash along with a two year earnings agreement that could net ThingWorx an additional $18 million.  The transaction has already closed and PTC indicated in its briefing call with analysts that ThingWorx will continue to operate as a separately branded company with its existing senior management team providing both platform technology for customers while affording PTC the opportunity to leverage this technology within the provider’s existing PLM and SLM product suites. ThingWorx’s revenue model is subscription based predicated on the number of connected devices.

ThingWorx was founded in 2009 by three previous senior executives at manufacturing intelligence portal vendor Lighthammer, after that company was acquired by SAP AG. Their goal was build a manufacturing and services focused platform that would leverage concepts of connected intelligence to operational systems, involving people, systems and devices. While PTC executives admit that ThingWorx is not currently profitable, they were willing to pay a considerable premium by investing in a “momentum” company that could provide much broader internal and external opportunities. The company provides opportunities to leverage PTC’s current customer base of asset intensive design and manufacturing firms including its high profile within aerospace and defense focused firms.

PTC will begin selling ThingWorx this quarter and believes the company can add an additional $5m-$7m in incremental boost to PTC’s annual revenues. The company also outlined plans for internally leveraging the platform in development plans over the next three years.

Supply Chain Matters initial reaction is that PTC has made a bold move to lock-up a promising technology platform.  Of course, how PTC balances the needs to continue to fund ongoing development and selling efforts by ThingWorx and at the same time insure an open standards based development platform will be interesting to observe in the coming months. The move adds another arrow in PTC’s ongoing efforts to compete with far larger enterprise software vendors. In the longer-term horizon, successful internal integration efforts if timely, could present rather compelling service management options for asset-intensive or service intensive customers.

Bob Ferrari

 

 


New Paradigms of the Service Supply Chain within the Aerospace Industry

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Our readers are more than aware of the ongoing unique challenges facing the global supply chains involving the aerospace industry.  Airline and aircraft leasing customers demanding more cost-efficient and innovative aircraft, coupled with breakthroughs in the development of lighter composite materials have resulted in the current unprecedented backlog of customer orders for OEM’s such as Airbus and Boeing. These respective OEM’s continue to be challenged with large scale multi-year production ramp-up needs while continuing to deal with engineering and production challenges.

Supply chain teams within aerospace are also fully aware that long-term maintenance and the service supply chain can be far more profitable and provide more opportunities for sustaining revenues than the product focused supply chain.  Today’s more technology laden aircraft represent far larger potential capital expenditures for airlines and over the past few years, aerospace OEM’s and component providers have come-up with creative leasing, financing and ongoing maintenance plans that reduce up-front capital and long term operating cost burdens.

This especially concerns the far more fuel efficient engines that will power the next generation of aircraft.  Airbus was able to seize first mover market advantage and book over 800 aircraft orders in months because of its collaborative co-development efforts with Pratt & Whitney in the development of the geared turbofan Pure Power engine offered on the A3320neo aircraft. Consider the fact that each plane comes with at least two engines, and aircraft engine manufacturers are bursting with order backlogs.  Pratt has secured orders for upwards of 2900 engines while CFM International, the joint venture among General Electric and Snecma, whose Leap engine is offered as an option for the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, has amassed over 4100 orders.  Engine manufacturers are keen to provide customers with long-term leasing and “power by the hour” maintenance programs where both airline customers and engine providers have incentives to insure that their engines provide reliable, continuous service at a lower overall cost.

The long-term profitability stakes are so high that Rolls-Royce, the sole engine provider for Airbus’s A380 superliner and the upcoming A350 has been involved in a high visibility public dispute with Air France-KLM over that airline’s independence in providing long-term maintenance for itself and other airlines. The airline was keen to continue its in-house maintenance program, so much so, that it was willing to hold hostage for months, a pending $6 billion order for 25 new Airbus A350 passenger jets until its demands for in-house maintenance were met. A Financial Times article in late August noted that the Rolls “Total Care” maintenance activities had already yielded Rolls over €1.5 billion in revenues for the first half of 2012.

While the long-term rewards for a robust service supply chain are lucrative, the product lifecycle management, information and supply chain challenges for engine providers are complex and require innovative approaches.  Rolls Royce has already experienced initial learning with its Trent family of engines powering the massive A380.  A catastrophic engine failure in 2010 involving a Qantas Airlines A380 was ultimately traced to a manufacturing flaw involving the assembly of engine oil tubes that initiated oil leaks resulting in the in-air failure of the engine. Since that time, Rolls has responded to a number of safety and maintenance inspection mandates involving the oil distribution systems of the Trent.

The General Electric GEnx engine is a powered option for the 787 Dreamliner. This new engine utilizes the latest generation materials and design processes to reduce weight, improve performance and lower maintenance. The rear turbine blades section is described by GE as featuring: “unique powdered metal rotors, specialized coatings, enhancing cooling techniques and new blade materials.” In late July, a brand new 787 scheduled for delivery to Air India experienced an inflight engine failure during final testing and the engine had to be returned for teardown analysis. During the same period, ANA (All Nippon Airways) had to temporarily ground part of its operating 787 fleet after unusual corrosion was found in the gearbox components of a Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine. ANA, the original launch customer for the 787, indicated that the action stemmed from a flawed process that could leave a certain parts of the Trent 1000 engines vulnerable to early corrosion.

The sophisticated engines being introduced by aircraft engine manufacturers are breaking new ground in technological capability. They are akin to the breakthrough introduction of direct fuel injection systems over carburetors in automobiles so many years ago. Over time, engine manufacturers will eventually reach stated goals for performance, long-term reliability and uptime.  But as this occurs, the paradigm of the service supply chain shifts towards early warning predictability maximized uptime and needs for precise synchronization of service events. This includes on-board and self-communicating diagnostics providing early warning to operating issues, more responsive networks of service parts and service depot suppliers as well as highly networked maintenance facilities.

In our view, aerospace manufacturers need to consider increased investments in their service supply chain capabilities including deeper product lifecycle management integration and supply chain intelligence, collaborative execution and supply chain control tower concepts.

The service supply chain will no longer take a back seat to the product-driven supply chain, and for aerospace specifically, it will be instrumental in fulfilling long-term revenue and profitability business objectives.

Bob Ferrari

 


PTC to Acquire Service Management and Planning Provider Servigistics

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Product lifecycle management technology provider PTC announced today that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire service parts planning and management provider Servigistics for approximately $220 million in an all-cash deal.  This deal is subject to regulatory approval along with other customary conditions.

This announcement is a rather significant event concerning the Service Parts Planning and the Service Lifecycle Management technology market segment.

About three years ago, in July of 2009, Supply Chain Matters alerted our readers to be watchful of software market consolidation in the service parts planning area. Our view was precipitated by the announcement that Marlin Equity Partners, an equity firm with a track record of buying and selling technology companies, had acquired Servigistics.  That game plan has obviously finally consummated with today’s PTC announcement.

For its part, Marlin managed to consolidate many known providers in the service parts planning and management domain, including the Service Network Solutions (SNS) arm of the former Click Commerce, which had previously consolidated the former Xelus, World Chain and Optum software offerings. At the time of the 2009 announcement, the web-native Servigistics platform was entirely different than the existing SNS software components, and many challenges were ahead in integrating the platforms. Marlin subsequently orchestrated the acquisition of service knowledge management provider Kaidara in April of 2010, along with a strategic partnership with business services provider Genpact in April 2011.  In 2009, Servigistics arch competitor MCA Solutions launched an aggressive campaign in urging the market to be exercise caution, since the landscape of independent software was narrowing.  The relationship remained highly competitive.

In a sudden and significant announcement just four months ago, Servigistics announced a termed merger with MCA Solutions. Our Supply Chain Matters commentary in March noted that whether the market considered it a merger or a takeover, the deal was consummated and the market had lost another independent provider. In its March announcement, Servigistics stated its intent to integrate various MCA software applications into the Servigistics Service Lifecycle Management portfolio. MCA provided Servigistics a strong service parts planning and optimization concentration in durable goods manufacturing, which included aerospace and defense, high tech, medical equipment among others, along with a stellar grouping of well-known customers.

As a product of today’s announcement, we now definitively know that the combined Servigistics amassed $80 million in current revenues but with single digit margins.  License revenues were in the order of 20-30 percent, implying that the bulk of revenues came from maintenance and added services.

Today’s PTC announcement adds yet another new dimension. In its press release and on the briefing call to analysts, PTC management indicates that Servigistics will be positioned to enhance the existing portfolio of PTC Service Lifecycle Management (SLM) solutions that address areas of warranty and contract management, service parts definition and technical information. PTC rightfully points out that its reputation in the market is focused on optimizing the way companies create and manage Product Lifecycle Management (PLM).  This acquisition provides a significant opportunity to now enhance that capability into areas of service parts planning and lifecycle service management dimensions. The reality however is that the portfolio, when combined, is offered to two entirely different buying audiences with different needs, one being engineering and product management, the other being services management and supply chain. In the analyst briefing session, PTC management hinted that the ultimate integration may indeed involve two stacks of technology components that are tailored to each buying audience, and bring together the technologies of both companies.  Another implication from today’s announcement is that major ERP, enterprise and cloud based software players such as IBM, Oracle, SAP and Salesforce.com must now deal with a more powerful competitive offering in this broader aspect of Service Lifecycle Management.

The most important takeaway from this commentary however is directed at existing Servigistics customers. Your vendor relationship has obviously been rocked yet again, and now is the time to take pause to ascertain what happens next.  Previous assurances or commitments regarding product integration and direction are now subject to scrutiny.  Supply Chain Matters also has open doubts as to whether a lot of progress was made in the MCA integration, and now, comes yet another integration challenge.

PTC has indicated to Wall Street that this acquisition brings opportunities for increased industry penetration and cross-selling opportunities.  It also indicated the potential for “cost synergies”, meaning cutbacks in redundant staffing and other activities, although PTC management pointed out that some key Servigistics staff will be offered incentives to remain. There does not seem to be any indication of whether Servigistics will remain an independent entity. The very best action that PTC can do once this merger is consummated is to clearly communicate to existing Servigistics customers a plan of customer support and future development intentions. Servigistics customers deserve no less since the road has been littered with previous intents and commitments.

Aftermarket service management has evolved to be a very critical component of business strategy with highly significant revenue potential for manufacturing firms.  The technology and innovation landscape supporting this critical area has undergone tremendous change, no thanks to Marlin Capital Partners. The challenge now shifts to PTC to provide additional innovation with compelling technology alternatives to manage both business process and agile decision-making for this area, while providing existing service management customers a viable strategy of support for existing needs.

Bob Ferrari

©2012 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters Blog.  All rights reserved.


Servigistics Announces the Merger of Competitor MCA Solutions

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Today marks a significant announcement concerning service management and service parts planning software technology. Service Lifecycle Management provider Servigistics today announced that it has completed a merger with MCA Solutions, a provider of service parts optimization technology.  Some readers may argue whether this is a merger or a takeover, but regardless, the deal is done.

Both companies are private and obviously no financial details have been disclosed regarding this merger. Obviously, the investors behind MCA were looking to execute an exit strategy.

The other headline related to this news is that it was no secret that both of these vendors were previously fierce competitors in the market, with different cultures.

According to statements in the press release and a Q&A document provided on both companies’ web sites, Servigistics plans to integrate various existing MCA’s software offerings into the existing Service Lifecycle Management portfolio provided by Servigistics.  The original founders of MCA, both Dr. Morris Cohen, a member of the faculty at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, And Dr. Vipul Agrawal will remain with the combined company.

MCA Solutions, which was founded in 1999, is best described by its concentration on aftermarket service parts planning and optimization. MCA’s software is primary directed at durable manufacturing industry sectors that included aerospace and defense, automotive, high tech, consumer electronics, medical equipment and others.  Existing named customers include among others, Airbus Military, Boeing, Bombardier, Briggs and Stratton, KLA Tencor, Lockheed Martin, Panasonic Avionics, Pratt and Whitney, Rockwell Collins and Tellabs. The software itself originated from the concepts, algorithms and methodologies advocated by its original founders, Dr. Cohen and Agrawal, and are currently offered in both a traditional behind-the-firewall and one-demand platforms.

For one of the most comprehensive overviews of MCA’s capabilities, readers can review the March 2011 profile analysis penned by fellow industry analyst colleague and friend, P.J.Jakovljevic published by Technology Evaluation Centers.

Supply Chain Matters had the opportunity to speak with Mark Vigoroso, Senior Vice President, Global Marketing and Alliances at Servigistics and we were able to ascertain some further background.  General conversations regarding the bringing together of both companies began about 90 days prior but accelerated in the last 30 days.  The intent of this merger is to capitalize on the best of both companies in terms of intellectual property, people and services for customers.

In July of 2009, Supply Chain Matters commented on potential market consolidation within the service parts planning software area.  The catalyst at that time was Marlin’s acquisition of both Servigistics, and three operating units of Click Commerce, which included Service Network Solutions (SNS) and Contract Service and Management (CSM).   The Click SNS business consisted of the aggregation of many former service parts planning providers, the most notable being the former Xelus. Other former names included World Chain and Optum. At the time, Marlin noted that the CSM business would be integrated with Emptoris, a strategic sourcing and procurement vendor that Marlin acquired in December 2008. Emptoris has since been acquired from Marlin by IBM.   Marlin has also orchestrated for Servigistics an acquisition of post-sales service knowledge management vendor Kaidara in April of 2010, and a strategic partnership with Genpact In April 2011, a major business process services provider. That partnership was targeted to combine Servigistics technology with Genpact’s aftermarket services operations expertise.  Our 2009 commentary was premature in timing but that is more of a reflection of the tenaciousness and attractiveness of MCA Solutions in the current market.

This newly announced merger has the potential to add deeper and broader industry coverage and establishes Servigistics as a formidable competitor to existing service parts and management technology offerings being provided by major ERP providers such as SAP and Oracle, or other best of breed vendor Baxter Planning Systems.

As with many of these announced acquisitions, existing MCA customers will have to wait and observe how the two companies actually come together, especially since original buying choices may have opted to not select the Servigistics platform for various considerations.  A concerted outreach communications effort was initiated yesterday by Servigistics senior management to assure existing MCA customers that their existing software will be supported for as long as necessary. For its part, Servigistics is acknowledging an obvious overlap in solution areas and is further communicating that it will combine the strengths of each platform in a future offering.  Over the longer horizon, MCA customers will eventually be offered the option to move toward a broader, more comprehensive Servigistics service management platform. Also being communicated is that existing MCA customers have the opportunity to complement their existing software with other Servigistics offerings if they so choose.

MCA customers can also anticipate an upcoming town hall session, where Servigistics management will address longer-term strategy. This session to be held in conjunction with the annual Servigistics customer conference at the end of April.

These latest developments should also prompt firms who are still seeking or evaluating future implementation of service management and decision support software to evaluate Servigistics capabilities in the context of executing a broader market vision related to comprehensive service management needs.

Regarding the longer term outlook for both of these combined companies, Supply Chain Matters speculates that other future announcements related to Servigistics are still yet to come, given Marlin’s previous history with supply chain technology vendors such as Emptoris.  Marlin and Servigistics are obviously assembling comprehensive software, service management intelligence and business process services capabilities with powerful market leverage and this will capture the interest of many of the existing enterprise IT market players.

Manufacturing and service firms have long discovered the increasing critical importance that aftermarket services contributes to revenue, product and profitability business objectives. The bottom line takeaway from this announcement related to MCA Solutions is that your potential list of technology choices and associated bargaining power has just been narrowed.

Bob Ferrari

©2012 The Ferrari Consulting and Research Group LLC and the Supply Chain Matters blog.  All rights reserved.


Recalled BlackBerry Batteries- Yet another wake-up call on counterfeit parts and product recall mitigation

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We have on frequent occasions penned Supply Chain Matters commentary related to the increasing occurrence of counterfeit or bogus goods across multiple industry and governmental supply chain networks. This growing issue has impacted product-related as well as refurbished product supply chains and has contributed to a more important consideration in supply chain risk identification and mitigation. In December, we noted how this problem has spread across the most sensitive of supply chains that being the defense-oriented supply chains of U.S. military agencies.  In both industry and defense sectors, unsavory operators have developed sophisticated techniques to counterfeit brand trademarks on components, taking advantage of unsuspecting buyers in their quest to find lowest-cost supply, or tap secondary distribution channels.

Another wake-up reminder to this growing problem will now catch the attention of certain BlackBerry© smartphone owners.  This week, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission announced that about 470,000 BlackBerry batteries distributed by Asurion are being voluntarily recalled due to an overheating and safety problem.  According to the recall notice, the batteries in question are counterfeit, and “these batteries were used across virtually all modes of refurbished BlackBerry devices distributed by Asurion prior to November 1, 2009.” Readers should note that Asurion is a well-known provider of consumer electronics add-on protection services for many mobile phone providers.  Their marketing tag line reads: Your Technology Protection Company.

The sobering aspect to this recall is that the batteries of suspicion carry a BlackBerry brand, which implies that an  uncertain number counterfeit batteries penetrated the supply chain without apparent detection.  The Recall Alert in-fact  provides a rather revealing phrase concerning the origins of these suspect batteries: Manufactured In: Unkown The fact that the dates of shipping span as far back as March 2004 is another concerning sign.  The Notice indicates that Asurion has received two reports of these suspect batteries causing minor burns. The CPSC notes that it is still interested in in receiving incident or injury reports that may be directly related to this incident.

I strongly suspect this incident will provide interesting challenges for consumers  with refurbished BlackBerry’s, since identification of genuine vs. bogus batteries will be key to mitigating this recall in a timely and cost effective fashion.  A web site has been referenced to provide consumers with information on how to identify the counterfeit version. Yes ladies and gentlemen, you have to identify if your battery is counterfeit based on various images of batteries.  The bottom of this Battery Exchange web site also notes that consumers should not contact Asurion directly, that this exchange program is being administered by a separate administrative entity.  That is even more interesting, adding a separate entity to the exchange and mitigation process.  Does anyone recall that past incident with Dell’s defective laptop batteries?  Dell clearly communicated the location of a web site where consumers could input a serial number and get real-time feedback if that battery was subject to recall.  I visited Asurion’s web site and as of this writing, there is no mention whatsoever of this recall program, or a reference to the separate battery exchange web site.  Interesting indeed.

The ever increasing popularity in smartphones and sophisticated consumer electronics brings with it high expectations for product reliability and customer service. Consumers pay premiums for these products because of the expectation that these are premium and durable products. Buying an add-on assurance program just adds more to these expectations. Being informed that the prime power source of your device may be counterfeit, trying to locate clear information, and having to determine this on your own based on visual inspection is not what consumers want to hear.

A supply chain risk mitigation plan must include means to quickly trace and identify suspect parts, and also be able to quickly respond when a potentially harmful quality problem arises. Clear and open communication is critical.  Think of Toyota’s latest incident.  Having just heard from the U.S. government that sticky accelerator pedals may have indeed been the root-cause of the recent rash of UIA incidents will not take away the damage that was done to brand reputation.

Quality or conformity of components applies not only to individual brand owners, but their add-on service and reverse logistics providers as well.  All involved are extensions of the brand, and consumers can often be unforgiving.

Bob Ferrari


GCommerce is Blazing a New Path in Aftermarket Parts Distribution

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A few weeks ago, Colin Masson of Microsoft’s Cloud Computing initiative called my attention to a rather innovative implementation story occurring in the automotive aftermarket parts sector, specifically related to GCommerce, a software-as-a-service provider catering to this sector.  As some readers might speculate, I tend to get many of these alerts from technology vendors, but I must admit this was a special situation which is due a mention on the Supply Chain Matters blog.  Too often, technology vendors tend to hype the technology vs. the more important factors that make a significant information technology initiative successful.  That includes a sponsor who absolutely understands the needs, stakeholder interests and the associated economics related to the business problem at hand.

The $300 billion automotive aftermarket parts business presents its own unique supply chain challenges, but in many respects is similar to many wholesale or parts distribution networks.  The severe economic downturn motivated many consumers to hang on to their older vehicles, thus creating increased demand for repair parts. There are currently over 350 million autos operating in the North American market, and the parts distribution network consists of over 1000 large commercial buyers interacting with upwards of 4000 suppliers and/or manufacturers.  Since the mid-nineties, increased specialization within specific vehicles have driven up SKU counts nearly 400% and number anywhere from 6 to 9 million different part numbers. That is a formula for high overhead and inventory cost.

As with many supply chain frameworks, the 80/20 Pareto principle has strong applicability in this sector, 80% of the business is driven by 20% of products and  suppliers. Intense industry-wide inventory pressures have driven many suppliers to cutback on overall stocking, opting instead for replenishment or direct drop-ship order processes between parts distributors and suppliers.  These direct orders created havoc among participants since each supplier tends to mandate a different process or systems interface.  The needs for greater efficiency, industry-wide standards and consistency in real-time inventory inquiry and procurement processes are an obvious business problem.

Within this business situation was the perfect storm of two players, GCommerce, which has deep industry process and distribution domain knowledge, and Microsoft, seeking opportunities to demonstrate the power of its collection of cloud computing technologies. Steve Smith, President and CEO of GCommerce, proudly states that he grew-up within the wholesale auto parts industry, and after interviewing Steve, I have no doubts to that claim.  He founded GCommerce in 2000, just prior to the infamous dot.com era, where the promises of electronic procurement trading exchanges connecting multitudes of buyers and sellers were the rage.  History tells the real story on how complex and expensive those approaches ended up to be, and industry participants can surely provide a history and account of Covisant, an exchange developed by the major automotive OEM’s.

GCommerce chose a more laser focus, targeting the aftermarket parts sector and building a backbone EDI-related infrastructure that would connect buyers, sellers and associated transactional networks. More importantly, the company built strong relationships with the key aftermarket industry stakeholders such as Gates, K&N, Lisle, Tenneco and others. The goal however remained a means to support a seamless inventory management, procurement and order fulfillment process without the huge expense of a centralized data warehouse and IT infrastructure. GCommerce also understood that their business model would not be successful if it included a high concentration of owned IT infrastructure.

Smith was fortuitous enough to challenge Microsoft, and specifically Rahul Auradkar, Director in the cloud computing group to help solve this problem.  Rahul brought to the table his previous experience in that company’s  Server and Tools business.  Microsoft was challenged to come up with a solution in 90 days, and the end-result was a new platform termed the Virtual Inventory Cloud (VIC™).  VIC™ is powered with a full relational database and leverages Microsoft’s Windows Azure and SQL Azure components, with the ability to ultimately handle millions of transactions. Parts buyers can login into the VIC ™ system to gather inventory status or send electronic drop-ship orders directly to individual parts supplier business systems.

Thus far, the company has amassed over 1000 suppliers and 200 major commercial buyers within VIC™. An incentive of a preferential yet simplistic pricing model has clearly helped. Steve coins this as a “Southwest model”, (reflecting that discount airline) with $25/$50/$100 flat-rate monthly transactional volume fees paid by suppliers, while distributors pay for a user license and one-time setup fee.

GCommerce and VIC™ are on the path toward providing a common business solution that is aligned with industry needs for an elegant and cost-affordable answer for automating the aftermarket drop-ship process.  In this author’s view, it is also an effective demonstration of the applicability of a cloud computing platform strategy to solve a specific business problem need.  VIC™ will surely grow its network and further scale in handling larger transactional volumes, and my sense is that this approach has potential applicability to other parts and inventory distribution fulfillment networks.

 Bob Ferrari


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